Three things have been carried over from the second season into the third: ridiculous plots, repulsive mecha and bad animation. This season's animation is inconsistently bad, however; sometimes good, often sketchy. Most female extras are still young and dollish, the civilians are still spineless sheep thrown into the meat grinder to encourage booing and hissing at the badguys ("don't forget to draw in a woman carrying a baby - and make it a pretty young one, not the old bags that mothers usually are") and the carnage goes on longer than ever before the scriptwriters allow the team to put a stop to it. The heroes themselves are at their most humourless and formulaic yet. Worse, the generic Caucasianism of the series has reached new heights; charas are only allowed to be non-Caucasian if the plot calls for it. One reason may be that the action has shifted westwards; it's all "America" and "Europe" now, mainly, I think/hope, because this season's villain is a European - and a highly anachronistic one. The whole series plunges into anachronism, with even Nambu using a spread-winged eagle emblem (do the Japanese know that this emblem is popular with fascist regimes?) and heroes, villains and giant cyborgs fighting with swords and maces, while Galactor HQ is typically a fortified castle. I've heard this series wasn't originally going to include the Gatchaman team, but Tatsunoko had some old heroes lying around, and so the team was inserted into a world that wasn't really theirs. Be that as it may, this series is the least "Gatchaman" of the lot, and possibly the least popular. That may be why I haven't found any handy-dandy English episode guides to check my impressions against, so this installment will contain only my impressions, at the risk of grave error. Bear with me.
As with the last series, the oldies being so chewed to the bone, attention goes to the new arrivals. New whitehat Kamo is of no importance here, being the standard tubby old marvel engineer (he has designed the highly economical Gatchaspartan) on the right, and so will be not be mentioned further.
There is a reason why I call him that, beyond the interesting skin colour which is probably a nod to Desslar, a villain pulled from the same hat as Captain Harlock. Prussia started out as an area somewhere in the Baltic which was colonized by Germans, then slowly drawn into the expanding German empire, then declared a "Gau" or province (by this time, its boundaries had shifted considerably) and finally merged with other provinces and abolished as a state/province in its own right, continuing to exist only in the imagination. It still appeals to some people's imaginations as a symbol of the virtues that made Germany "great": discipline, unquestioning obedience, stark militarism (Trekkies might call it "Klingon"), and this while it was never really German to start with.
In the same way, Egobossler and his leading general Kempler, although not explicitly German, are very much "the Boche", both in the WWI sense of the delusions of grandeur fanned into war under Bismarck and in the WWII sense of Nazi leaders torturing people while listening to classical music by, of course, German composers. In the time of highly developed laser technology, Ego scorns CDs, and is always accompanied by an antique record player and a private collection that presumably includes Wagner - this composer was in no way a promoter of Nationalist Socialism, being too dead at the time to support it, but his oeuvre sadly does appeal to a certain kind of person... (Click on the pic to hear an MP3 of what Ego likes to listen to while laughing villainously.)
The observant Gatch-watcher might say: but what of Mechandor, who bravely stood by Egobossler when Kempler betrayed him? Mechandor is, so to say, a Wagnerian accessory. Wagner's magnum opus is the "Ring der Nibelungen", an opera based on Scandinavian mythology, which also appeals to a certain kind of person. The Nazis doted on the Vikings, which is ridiculous considering that these tough, self-willed farmers/traders/pirates (who would trade for something when they couldn't steal it outright) were not very amenable to discipline and, if called on to defend their glorious homeland, would have told Hitler and his ilk where to stick it! I also can't see the Scandinavian women of that time, reputed to impale themselves on swords to follow their slain husbands to Walhalla, obediently waiting at home while their men were in the trenches, producing sons to also send off to the trenches. But this is a part of history that white nationalists and Tatsunoko alike ignore, concentrating instead on the Vikings, or rather on their popular image as faithful, selfless war machines. So it's not surprising that both Mechandor and the elite force of giant Vikings should be cyborgs. (I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet on it.)
The very first ep shows Galactor reborn as Egobossler's "family" (hoo boy, the Nazis were really into family values too, weren't they? As is the Roman Catholic Church... As I'm typing this in 2005, the newly elected pope is from Germany and is rumoured to have had ties with the Nazi regime - good things do come together!) and its generals standing around Ego's map of conquests in his oh-so-modern HQ. (And all this before Sosai X, now Z, even announces himself.)
And my, such a huge chunk he's conquered already, if the map can be believed: Europe, North Africa, and bits of northern Siberia right into Alaska. I wonder if one of his villainous-looking generals is called Rommel.
President Nambu has of course been conferring with his ministers too - hey, Mister Monocle is back!
There exist, in this day and age, insular kingdoms in Europe - would this be one of them? Since he is such a castlemaniac, Ego's first target is, of course, a castle! (I wonder if every dot on that map represents a chateau he's set his sights on.)
Its monarch looks like queen Flake (a character from the first series), but this queen is called Maria. (Ego gets a bit sticky in this ep, he orders a huge wedding cake and apparently wants to marry himself into royalty, but after the queen tosses wine in his face and calls in Gatchaman, he's sworn off women for life.) The castle is quickly and efficiently taken over by what looks like soldiers from the Death Star, after which goons black and green do a Sieg Heil (or, as it's done in the Gatchaverse, Gyaraktuu Ekuware) to its new (but only temporary) owner.
But this salute, similar as it looks, is all layers of this feodal society, from queen to the lowest yokel, thanking Gatchaman for cleaning out the krauts.
Another question mark... Galactor is again trying to get hold of the Mantle Plan and Nambu shows the team a few unhelpful maps and camera pictures of a riding train and, more relevantly, the people on that train being held at gunpoint by Galactor. Off the bat, I'd say they're either guerillas or refugees from some banana republic. (With Galactor part of the Establishment these days, they're more often harried by guerrillas than using guerilla tactics themselves.)
Even if they are guerrillas, they're not much good. See them run up to hug the Gatchamen for offing the green goons - but wait - who is that woman in the door, clearly not as convinced of Gatchaman's good intentions as the others?
Her name is Anita and as the ep progresses, she shows herself to be of sterner stuff than these others, who practically lynch her on the suspicion of being a Galactor spy, after which they all die - or something... Getting back to the start of the ep, when it turns out that more goons were hiding behind the door, the men all run and hide behind the Birdsuits, but Anita single-handedly scares off the enemy by pulling out a bomb.
Maybe "Rock the Casbah" would have been a better intro tune to this ep than the usual crap about Gatchaman bravely defending the world. Whether North African or near East (as in, pre-twentieth century Bagdad) this would be a prime location for the shooting of yet another Hollywood film with turbans and flying carpets.
When entering such a place, one should dress appropriately (in this case, as part of a Bedouin caravan). Ken gets it right, but Jun and Jinpei have been watching too many of said Hollywood films.
Since the Galactors aren't fooled for a minute, they switch back to their old togs, quite jarring with the scenery.
Ego, for all his Teutonism, knows how to blend in - this whole structure hides a base of his, probably his HQ since Gatchaman is out to destroy it - and has as emergency exit the belly of the demonic dog statue (that's very Hollywood!) just outside the main building.
The less said about this ep the better, I think... Ken infiltrates yet another Galactor base - a Galactor city this time, home to green goons and their families - disguised as a....
He offers to help his in-base contact, who will try to kill him a number of times during the ep, and later shows his redneck courage in saving a kid from being run over by a truck.
His contact ends up i. dead ii. seeing how much good there is in a simple country boy, and then it's time to Bird-Go, in a picture which is unintentionally hila- er, very, very funny.
Rarely do Gatcha-civilians get their flags right, but this (from the end of the ep; is that plane KLM?) is indubitably The Netherlands.
You see, there is a "little Netherlands" amusement park in Japan which is built in Dutch style (as the Japanese perceive it). No really, it's true, I've seen it on TV. So the Japanese think they really know this country. It has lots of windmills and lots of tulips. (And not a clog in sight - well, they got that right!)
And the Dutch are such proud members of the European Community! (In the referendum of 2005 for the scam "European Constitution", the Dutch population massively voted NO. Britain then cancelled its own referendum in case their population would also give the wrong answer - remind me what "democracy" stands for? The German government of course never asked its subjects in the first place.) Here they are waving their "Europe Rulez" flags as battallions of grey-uniformed goodguys march in, in a way that horribly reminds me of archived material of first the German invasion, then that of the American "liberators" - for the umpteenth time I wonder if the makers of this series were stealthily making a point.
Their economy driven by windmills and tulips, the Dutch must surely be very rich - they must own mansions and employ butlers! Oh, and they still wear their hair like this.
In preparation for a secret mission, the daughter of the house dons an outfit less Victorian than the dress she wore, but still very snooty. She doesn't get far, of course, and is saved by a mysterious stranger (Ken) standing on the wooden latticework of a windmill's wing and presumably practicing levitation, as that structure is not normally strong enough to hold him. A windmill made of wood and stone? And this while the Dutch use the latest in greenhouse technology! (Having lived and worked there - in a tulip greenhouse, no less - I can vouch for the fact that neither the Dutch nor the tulip industry look even remotely like the animation. Check out Slightly strange for a more accurate picture.)
(The real Red Baron was baron Manfred van Richthofen, an actual Prussian who, in WWI, was famous for both his skill as a fighter pilot and his bright red aeroplane.)
Another mission, another elite force pitting itself against the Gatchamen. The character in the banana-yellow craft is "Heinz". This may be a pilot that Ken knows, or they may simply know each other by reputation, but at their first encounter it becomes obvious that they will square off before the ep is over.
The reward for this young Galactor's bravery: Ego Himself puts an arm around Heinz's shoulders (awww...) and gives him a shiny medal! In front of a multitude of saluting, cheering goons! (Although to me they look as if they're grabbing and going "Gimme gimme gimme!")
At a chance encounter, the now be-medalled youth tells Ken of his background: poor beggars in those typical Gatch F outfits (the F must stand for Feodal because the poor these days wear torn baggy slacks, sweatshirts and hand-me-down Nikes) who fought over coins tossed by the aristocracy. He of course took no part in this, and probably saw Egobossler as taking a stand against the division between rich and poor.
At first, he seems to be winning, but victory is ever with the goodguy, and his predictable demise follows.
Fortune smiles on homicidal maniacs, and when not, they're at least shown more deference than the average slob-with-gun when they die. The real Red Baron received a honorary military burial from the enemy ("it's the least we can do for your offing so many of us") - this hero just has to make do with a final salute from Ken.
More ridiculous ethnic representations in "Gatchaman Fighter" next update (six months from now) - stay tuned!